Louis Vuitton Series…cosa bolle in pentola?

Louis Vuitton….qualcosa bolle in pentola! Come anticipato da SailBiz qualche giorno fa la LV sta pensando di riorganizzare in maniera più strutturata un evento velico dal sapore di Coppa America. Quindi non solo replicare quanto stato ad Auckland ma replicarsi nel tempo con una certa continuità. Un articolo di Sail-World fa intendere proprio che il desiderio di dare continuità unito alla volontà di replicare il modello Forumula1 potrebbe portare ad un annuncio imminente e le sorprese non finiscono qui.

Secondo quanto risulta a SailBiz all’inizio di giugno i team si sono incontrati a Parigi proprio per discutere della prossima LV Cup su invito di Bruno Troublé. La domanda che potrebbe nascere è c’è bisogno di altri eventi velici?
Di seguito l’articolo integrale di SailWorld:

Gladwell’s Line: Final decision pending on Louis Vuitton World Series
An final decision is still pending on an extension of the highly successful Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, which will introduce a new world series of sailing regattas using America’s Cup class yachts.

Already several meetings have been held with 12 teams from 10 countries being present at one discussion. A second meeting was held in Marseilles during the recent Audi MedCup regatta held in that port. Alinghi was believed to have been present at one of these sessions.

Initially a formal announcement of the series was expected this coming Friday, however it is expected that this date may slide pending a final ‘get-go’ for the complex arrangements and logistics.

The shape of the new series is expected to be a combination of recent developments in the America’s Cup, Louis Vuitton Cup, Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, and the Acts sailed in 2005 and 2006 sponsored by Louis Vuitton.
To the build up to the 2000 America’s Cup in Auckland Team New Zealand developed the concept of the ‘Road to the America’s Cup’ regattas held in two near identical America’s Cuppers – NZL10 and NZL-12, with invited teams and Team New Zealand contesting the final.

Then in the lead up to the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia the concept was expanded considerably by America’s Cup Management, in conjunction with Louis Vuitton and the Challengers group, established the concept of Acts initially sailing yachts used in the 31st America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton Cups, and then rolling up to Version 5 (being the 5th edition of the America’s Cup design rule) for the 2006 series).

Essentially each challenger had to provide their own yacht and support infrastructure, with a ship being used to transport the fleet of 12 teams, support and race management boats between four venues being Valencia (ESP) Marseilles (FRA), Malmo (SWE) and Trapani (ITA).

The concept of the series was to build up to the 2007 America’s Cup and provide an edge to the racing which meant that points scored would count towards the Challenger Selection Series (Louis Vuitton Cup), but would not be sufficient to determine the outcome of the CSS before it had even started.
A significant development of the 12 Act series was its ability to operate out of a port using very limited resources. Essentially all that was required was a hard stand area close to deep water and with a crane or two handy to lift the yachts.

With the rejection of a multi challenger series using boats the the new 33AC rule, the door has been opened for the Challengers to do their own thing while waiting for the multihull challenge to be sorted out.

For the first time in the America’s Cup’s 158 year history there is been no Defender essentially controlling how the Challengers can operate in the buildup to the next America’s Cup and the unique opportunity is now there to set up a new game. This byproduct of the protracted legal action is a huge bonus for the Challengers. The combination of circumstances has created the opportunity to create something special.

The most likely shape of this new competition would appear to be an extension of what was tried in with the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Auckland. Namely a ten team regatta, maybe 12, using two pairs of America’s Cup yachts from 32 AC.
The first venue in the series is expected to be Hong Kong, in January, followed by Auckland in February or March. Two more regattas are expected to be held in 2010, and it is believed at this stage, that Valencia will not be a venue. One of the venues could be in Africa, and Newport, USA is believed to be a strong option.

Yachts from BMW Oracle Racing and Emirates Team NZ are expected to be used again and will obviously be shipped and set up at each venue. Louis Vuitton and their long time emissary, Bruno Trouble, are believed to be the drivers behind the ambitious project. A considerable amount of work has gone into the project, which is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for the America’s Cup family.

Louis Vuitton have been the primary driving force behind the creation of the Louis Vuitton Cup itself as the pinnacle of the Challenger Selection Series for the America’s Cup, and then providing substantial sponsorship, organisation and support as the Louis Vuitton Cup moved from Newport, USA to Fremantle, (AUS), Auckland (NZL), San Diego (USA) and then into Valencia (ESP).

It was Louis Vuitton who picked up the initiative for the Pacific Series, staged as a celebration of one of the longest running sponsorships in sport, but clearly as a test of a future event. The fact that the America’s Cup family had fallen on hard times following the litigation, was a further incentive for Louis Vuitton to keep the teams and their sponsors alive, until the 33rd Match, subsequently decided at the Defender’s behest to be sailed in multihulls. There was little truck from the challenger teams to be involved in an expensive, short term multihull event underlining the damage that has been done to the America’s Cup by the litigation process, delay and restrictions.

The World Series model that will be followed will be similar to the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series except there may be a true match racing format used without one team going through as ‘Defender ‘.

What the World Series will do is create a new layer of competition that will sit between the World Match Racing Tour and the America’s Cup.

This layer, coupled with the supplied boats nature of the competition, will allow new teams to form out of the WMRT and go up the next stage into the World Series, and if they can achieve the results at that level, then they can go into a full America’s Cup program with some confidence.
One of the exciting aspects of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series was seeing the new teams, such as Team Origin, packed with Olympic medalists, would come up against the more experienced America’s Cup teams with no medalists.

Obviously from a sponsor viewpoint, backing a new team for a couple of years on the World Series, to see how they go is going to be a lot more attractive than ponying up for a full blown America’s Cup program. So the entry cost into the America’s Cup will be substantially lowered, and teams will be able to build a track record of performance without incurring a massive design and boat program overhead.

For the established teams it will be the opportunity to bring new blood into the team and develop this under hostile fire, but outside the crucial theatre of the America’s Cup, as Emirates Team New Zealand has done with BlackMatch Racing.

The cost of competing in Auckland was about USD250,000 per team for the three weeks. While this is not insubstantial, with proper venue selection it should be possible to provide a good return to sponsors. A key to this will be the availability of coverage and use of a web graphics package such as Virtual Eye, on public release, as well as using the same Virtual Eye package for TV, will be a key to the take up by the major networks. International coverage of these events offers huge scope for both television and the internet – far beyond what was possible given the short notice of the Auckland based Louis Vuitton Pacific Series.

Additionally, the organiser’s ability to take the World Series into different continents around the world gives some alignment with other major sporting events, but at greatly reduced relative cost (compared to say Formula 1). Previously any America’s Cup build up series has been limited to one city or one venue or one continent. moving an event between continents does generate interest in the local event and that interest remains for following venues in the same series.

The numbers of spectators at the recent stop overs of the Volvo Ocean Race, should not be lost on sponsors and promoters of the World Series, with up to 500,000 expected to pass through the village at Stockholm. The recent announcements made by the Volvo Ocean race organisers are clearly aimed at making the event more attractive to more professional racing teams – providing certainty around dates and venues.

Use of America’s Cup boats from the previous edition of the Main Event will provide a fresh edge to the World Series, as well as providing a post Cup use for these yachts which are still in their prime. From the public’s viewpoint these used boats are the America’s Cup, giving a degree of currency to the new Series.

Taking a lead from the ACM in the previous edition of the 2007 America’s Cups, bidding the venue should lower costs for a lead sponsor and promoter making the regatta more viable – with some assurance of exposure once the event formula has been optimised.

While there may be some behind the scenes talk of a Louis Vuitton World Series, passing off as a America’s Cup event, such arguments would not stand up when exposed to the in the sailing sunlight. Control over the use of boats, would be a very fraught process. The use of America’s Cup marks overshadowed the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, however Louis Vuitton established their own marks and event reputation during the Auckland event, and within a few days the regatta stood up its own right without reference to THAT other trophy.

Should Societe Nautique de Geneve/Alinghi be successful in defending the 33rd America’s Cup (and thus assume the role of the Defender for the 34th America’s Cup), then the situation does get interesting given their relationship with Louis Vuitton and their penchant for implementing Protocols which require competitors to obtain ACM’s permission before competing in events which could be construed as being in some conflict with a build up series for the 34th America’s Cup.

The simple lesson of the last two years for professional racing teams is that they have to be multi-dimensional and can’t just have an America’s Cup campaign as their single focus, because of the ongoing uncertainty with that event, and the time lapse between Matches. At one stage BMW Oracle Racing were running four or five crews/teams in various projects, and Emirates Team New Zealand are running a one or two match racing teams, a TP52 program and have competed in a Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in the last four months. Others are involved in Extreme 40 events and match racing.
Golden Gate YC/BMW Oracle Racing are believed to be strongly in favour of a Louis Vuitton World Series, and if they prevail in the 33rd America’s Cup then the new series should fly.

Whoever is the Defender of the 34th America’s Cup will not have the luxury of dictating the terms of the Event, as has been done in the past. The vacuum that has been created by the litigation has created a space that is being filled by other events, albeit it without the prestige of the America’s Cup, but definitely offering the certainty that the Auld Mug has lacked in the past two years.

The Volvo Ocean Race, with professional forward thinking management and an inclusive style is a serious threat to the old type America’s Cup organisation. A new way forward is required, with a professionally organised global event. Louis Vuitton and Bruno Trouble have the record and are currently without peer in this regard, but a green light from both sides in the 33rd America’s Cup is preferred, but maybe not required.

Also critical to the success of the World Series will be to enshrine it as part of the enduring America’s Cup build up once the prestigious trophy is back into a more conventional competition format.

Interesting times.


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